Monday, November 7, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: On Parade: The hidden world of animals in entertainment by Rob Laidlaw

Rob Laidlaw takes the stories he's heard and what's he's observed in twenty-five years of observing animals in entertainment and captivity and creates a strong case for animal-free entertainment. Laidlaw describes how animals have been exploited throughout history up to the current day, especially in circuses and in movies and television shows.

The efforts to move abused and exploited animals to sanctuaries and other safe places is detailed as well as changes in laws that have been slowly improving how animals are treated. Laidlaw looks at abuses around the world, especially in places that do not have laws to protect animals or are struggling to enforce those laws. He finishes the book with a discussion of ways to replace animals in entertainment, with CG images in television and movies, human actors in circuses, and people refuses to patronize shows that use live animals.

Some of Laidlaw's ideas and pronouncements seem a little unrealistic - he doesn't approve of keeping elephants captive for breeding, saying "It seems to me that breeding elephants may be good for circuses but not too helpful to conservation because it's unlikely any of these elephants will ever be returned to the wild. Besides, elephants have no problem breeding and producing calves in the wild. They just need to be kept safe from poachers and to have their remaining habitat protected." Oh, is that all? Now why didn't anybody think of that before? Some other pronouncements are also a bit simplified and there's not much information about how people in third world countries who depend on exploited animals and tourism for their livelihoods, should survive with the animals gone. He admits that the sanctuaries that take in exploited animals have limited space, but doesn't offer any other options - either for the animals whose survival in the wild would be doubtful, or for the people, especially in third world countries, who base their livelihood on these animals. I would also have liked more organized documentation of the Laidlaw's stories and observations.

However, for the most part the book is well-documented and reasonably objective. There are plenty of resources for kids who want to get involved and the descriptions of abuse are realistic but not overly graphic. The book is written in a lively and fast-paced style with plenty of photographs and additional information.

Verdict: Recommended for kids interested in animals and/or getting involved in a good cause. Definitely something to think about when booking summer performers.

ISBN: 9781554551439; Published November 2010 by Fitzhenry and Whiteside; Borrowed from the library

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